Before expressing your disbelief, let me assure you I am talking about George Romney, not Mitt.  In this case, it’s not just the son that was not like the father. According to a report today from ProPublica, the investigative reporting site, George Romney’s policy as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to deny water, sewer and highway  funds to segregated communities was stopped by President Richard Nixon.  Virtually no effort has been made since to utilize those powers.

                I know this story well.  As president of the liberal Republican policy and advocacy organization, the Ripon Society, I presented the society’s Republican of the Year Award to Secretary Romney at our annual meeting in Detroit, in 1971.  The Ripon Society had been pressing the Nixon administration to drop its opposition to integration measures, including school busing as a means of advancing greater integration. Romney accepted the award, but Nixon subsequently pushed him out of his administration.

                According to ProPublica’s report, Romney never cleared his effort with Nixon, who wrote on a memo from his chief policy advisor, John Ehrlichman, “Stop this one.” Romney was not deterred, believing that blighted black ghettoes formed the root cause urban rioting. Nixon admitted that reversing Romney’s directive would leave schools more segregated, but he said he could not support “forced integration.” For his part. Romney noted in his journal the importance of acting, writing, “Equal opportunity for all Americans in education and housing is essential if we are going to keep our nation from being torn apart.”

                The rest, you could say, is history.  As I reported in my posting for January 10, Republicans abandoned efforts to reach the urban poor, not the least in Detroit, where a storefront established in the mid-60s went untouched in the 1967 riots, but was abandoned after Nixon was elected the next year. After toying with a more moderate strategy stressing black enterprise and inclusion, the GOP turned sharply right in an effort to attract white voters.  In 2008, Mitt Romney recalled his own empathy with his father’s civil rights efforts.  To my knowledge, he’s made no such gestures in 2012.